Friday, November 9, 2012

Survival Plant Profile: Florida Cranberry

This is possibly one of the coolest-looking edibles you can grow. And not only is it beautiful, it's also delicious. The Florida Cranberry is a member of the hibiscus family (which also includes okra) and like many hibiscus, has multiple edible parts.

The blooms, leaves, and pods on this plant are all edible - but the reason most people grow Florida Cranberry is for the calyxes. What is a calyx, you ask? It's the pointy red bit at the base of the flower. After blooming, the flower withers and the pod inside the bud begins to swell. After a few days, the calyx around it is large and juicy - ready for picking.

Perfect little "Invasion of the Bodysnatchers" pods!
I use scissors to take them off my bushes when they're about an inch across. Then you get to do the fun part:




Chop the stem end off, slit one side and pop out the green fruit in the middle. (They're like freaky little okra babies... I send them right out the door to the chickens.) Then save the calyxes in the freezer until Thanksgiving - they're a dead ringer for cranberry, though not as bitter. My wife uses them interchangeably with cranberries in her sauce making... and the results are delicious. 

Check out her recipe here:


The light cycle effects when these start their blooming, so keep that in mind. You'll have lovely flower-less bushes until sometime in October, then the blooms arrive in profusion. Pick regularly to keep the plant going, which it will until frost. 

Another great thing about these plants: the leaves are delectable. They're a lemony-tart and satisfying flavor that's perfect in Caesar salads. Try it - they'll blow your mind. That is, if it's not already blown by the plant's gorgeous blooms.


Tip: start these guys from seed in the spring, then transplant out. They'll grow like crazy with a little care. Finding seeds may be difficult - my previous supplier no longer carries them. If I get some this fall, I may offer them through my nursery in the spring - but if anyone has a good source right now, please post below and share the wealth.


SPUDOMETER RATING:







3 Spuds
Name: Jamaican Sorrel, Florida Cranberry, Roselle
Latin Name: Hibiscus sabdariffa
Type: Annual shrub
Size: 4-7'
Nitrogen Fixer: No
Medicinal: Potentially
Cold-hardy: No
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Part Used: Calyxes, leaves
Propagation: Seed
Taste: Delicious
Method of preparation: Raw, cooked, jellied, leaves in salads
Storability: So-so. Preserve by freezing, jellying.
Ease of growing: Easy
Nutrition: Good
Recognizability: Low
Availability: Low

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20 Comments:

At November 9, 2012 at 8:46 AM , Blogger chrissy bauman said...

Wow! what an attractive plant!

 
At November 9, 2012 at 8:49 AM , Blogger Survival Gardener, AKA David the Good said...

Yeah. Isn't it amazing? They're works of art.

I'm working on a short video about them... gonna post that soon.

 
At November 10, 2012 at 5:01 PM , Blogger ChrisC said...

Just found your blog.Love it.If you get seeds,I'd love some.

 
At November 10, 2012 at 8:20 PM , Blogger Survival Gardener, AKA David the Good said...

Sure thing - I'm hoping the frost won't hit too soon and they'll produce for me. Thanks for stopping by.

 
At March 14, 2013 at 7:28 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

You can find Thai red roselle seeds from rareseeds.com. It's the Baker creek family in Missouri that has been selling heirloom seeds for over a hundred years! They have a sparse number of physical locations to purchase their seeds, but they always take online orders. Very cheap too. I just started my seeds in starter cases, can't wait to see what pops up, looking forward to this beautiful plant.

 
At May 3, 2013 at 2:36 PM , Blogger lightworks photography said...

The calyxes can also be made into tea. It gives the "zing" in zinger tea. I didn't know that the leaves are edible, will give them a try this year!

 
At June 20, 2013 at 8:23 AM , Blogger Gardens-In-The-Sand said...

I grew this last year, but I'm not finding any viable seeds on the over-wintered dead plant...
May not be a plant that can be naturalized north of Florida...

 
At October 6, 2013 at 3:39 PM , Blogger Green Tree Farm-SC, LLC said...

Green Tree Farm-SC, LLC I grew Thai red roselle from seed this spring for the first time and they are beautiful plants. I am about to go out and harvest calyces for recipes I am researching. I tried to sell them from my small retail nursery, and although they were beautiful in their one gallon containers, they were basically unknown in SC and few sold due to lack of recognition. My seeds came from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and I am harvesting my own from calyxes that were allowed to remain on the plant. I am experimenting, but will continue to grow at Green Tree Farm-SC, LLC in Sumter, SC. Thanks for sharing!

 
At December 15, 2013 at 12:30 PM , Blogger chrissy bauman said...

I just found some information online that this plant, and other members of the mallow family, including the commonly found perennial chinese hibiscus, are really good sources of dietary Vitamin C. Something to think about when preparing your survival garden, especially if you are unlucky enough, as I am, to live in an area of the state that is largely unsuccessful at growing most citrus. The only other really prevalent source of Vitamin C that I know of is pine needle tea, but i have heard mixed information about that. what are your vitamin C sources in your survival gardens?

 
At March 6, 2014 at 8:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pod (you throw to the chickens?) is used to make Jamaica or hibiscus tea. I think you throw away the best part! I bought seeds at Echo in Ft Myers. Growing up in San Diego all the mexican fast food place sold jamaica, horchata (rice milk) & tamarindo (bean pod).
Bonnie

 
At March 6, 2014 at 8:24 PM , Blogger Survival Gardener, AKA David the Good said...

We throw the spiny green middles (which are the real seed pods) to the chickens and use the red calyx part... that's the hibiscus tea part.

I originally got my seeds from ECHO too. Love those guys.

I also love tamarind... I have one of those growing down south at my Dad's place.

Thanks for stopping by.

 
At November 6, 2014 at 11:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was able to save some seeds at the end of the growing season last year, and this year they are doing fine.

 
At December 25, 2014 at 11:45 AM , Blogger Cristy said...

I had the most beautiful plants in my garden this year, and there was not enough time for them to go to seed before first frost. Granted, I am in S. Alabama, but Baker Creek had said I was far enough south for them. Sad.

 
At March 3, 2015 at 9:14 AM , Blogger Farmers Leo and Kat and Ray said...

We drink pine needle tree here too, off our longleaf pines.

 
At March 3, 2015 at 4:34 PM , Blogger David The Good from FloridaSurvivalGardening.com said...

Their seeds have an excellent germination rate, too. Just planted a pack last week and they all came up.

 
At May 4, 2015 at 7:32 PM , Blogger Debbie Turner said...

I am the inventor of the worlds first Sorrel Harvesting Machine. I have a USA Patent pending. This machine strips the calyx flesh from the sorrel bud. We are launching the machine in Jamaica this year and plan to bring it to Florida in 2016. This plant has major medicinal benefits related to lowering blood pressure and cancer research and demands are growing very fast. If you'd like to know more please email me at debbiedyeroral@yahoo.com or visit my website. http://www.turnerinnovations.net/

 
At July 2, 2015 at 8:43 PM , Blogger Wendy Randolph said...

What growing conditions does this plant favor? I bought one this weekend, and it looks to be too big for its container. I am hoping to take some cuttings from it before I transplant it. Do you have any tips on rooting the cuttings? Do you think it is worth the effort?

 
At July 2, 2015 at 8:56 PM , Blogger David The Good from FloridaSurvivalGardening.com said...

I wouldn't bother with cuttings except for fun: this plant is a long-lived annual and rarely goes through two years. Plant what you have, then save the seeds in the fall (let some dry in the pods while still on the plant) and plant those seeds next year.

 
At July 2, 2015 at 8:57 PM , Blogger David The Good from FloridaSurvivalGardening.com said...

And... it's easy. Full sun, some decent soil and it will grow.

 
At July 2, 2015 at 9:11 PM , Blogger Wendy Randolph said...

Thank you! You helped me gather the information I wanted for all my new plants - by way of your videos, blog posts, or comment replies :-D Now, I must decide where in the yard to plant my moringa, the banana, the plantains, the pineapple guavas, cranberry hibiscus, roselle, chaya and cuttings, and papaya seedlings. Very exciting!

 

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